Tiananmen Square Massacre, 30 years on.

June 4th or Lok Sei in Cantonese, means only one thing to those who know what happened 30 years ago today in Tiananmen Square, in what was then Peking. For millions of Chinese people in the mainland today , it is just another day because of vigorous government censorship but for millions more it is a day when they hope answers will finally come and they will have vindication.

My story

I remember it being on the evening news. Whenever you heard Kate Adie’s voice, you knew it was something to pay attention to. She had been reporting for a while on the student protests but when, on the evening of June 3rd she reported about shots being fired and chaos erupting, I sat up and listened. I was getting married in July of that year and I’d been trying to take note of special events that were happening. I never envisaged this would be one of them.

“Tell the World What is Happening”

Michael Burke was presenting the BBC news and he interviewed Kate Adie, the emotion in her voice says it all.

The view from Hong Kong

My family and I lived in Hong Kong for twelve years. I’m ashamed to say that only when we were leaving did I realise I’d never attended the vigil so in 2013, I donned my rainmac and joined the crowds.

Old and young, Chinese and non-Chinese, first-timers and annual supporters alike marched through the summer rain and converged on Victoria Square in Causeway Bay.

30 years on, what do people who were there think?

What’s the future?

In 1997, Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of China after the handover from Britain. Hong Kong was promised ‘One Country, Two Systems’ but the freedoms that exist in Hong Kong today are being eroded and censorship is happening in a very real and obvious way. I’m not a journalist or an intellectual, so I cannot write accurately about these changes, but they are real. The most recent confrontation with the mainland has been about the propsed extradition laws that would allow people to be sent to the mainland for trial. Here’s what Reuters has to say. Today of all days, when people of Hong Kong march and remember the June 4th massacre, Chief Executive, Carrie Lam says “how can I retract this important piece of work because of criticism, including ad hominem criticism.” A friend who is at the vigil as I write this blog says “I would not be surprised if the protest is forbidden in HK in 10 years’ time. Lest we forget.”

Want to see how it went in Hong Kong this year?

The South China Morning Post is the go-to newspaper in the English language in Hong Kong but it too is subject to censorship. Recently a new paper has spring up, Hong Kong Free Press. Click here to see how they are reporting today’s events.

Finally

In October of this year, the world will mark 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. How people in China and Chinese people all over the world must hope that one day, they too will have the freedom to decide their own destiny. Economic freedom that has happened in China over the last 30 years must be followed by political reform. When that does happen, we must all fight to keep it. Today in the UK, people are marching against Donald Trump as he makes a state visit to the United Kingdom. It is one thing to honour the office of President of the United States, it is another when that person dishonours his own citizens and is complicent in taking away their freedoms and rights. Freedom has to be fought for over and over again and never taken for granted.

Clothing, and how I feel about it.

Made-to-measure in Hong Kong.

A Twitter thread popped up on my account today. It asked for female steroetypes that you don’t conform to. I owned up to having ditched make-up (apart from my trusty lippy) but it got me thinking. Yesterday, I visited a Repair Cafe (I’ll talk about that later) to get a pair of my daughter’s jeans repaired and I was so happy to be able to get this done. I don’t really like clothes shopping, that’s the other female stereotype I have ditched, but I like nice clothes. I like clothes that fit me and that I feel comfortable wearing regardless of whether they are fancy clothes or every day clothes.

One of the things I miss most about living in Hong Kong is being able to pop over the border into mainland China, specifically the district of Shenzen, and visit the Lo Wu shopping area. It was only an hour on the train. Lo Wu is famous for its fakes but I loved it for the tailoring you could get done there. The Lo Wu Commercial Centre (shopping mall) has five floors and is a real Aladdin’s cave just waiting to be explored.

The top floor is haberdashery heaven. It is full of stalls selling all sorts of fabric from silks and cottons to wool, cashmere and denim. Plus there are stalls selling ribbons, lace, buttons and all sorts of trimmings. The quality is superb and the range is huge. You can buy not only material for clothing but soft furnishing fabrics too. I’ve not got many photos, I always felt a bit awkward and it was back in the day before EVERYTHING got photographed!

I got to know one tailor quite well. Nancy and her sister could measure you up at a glance, although they wrote copious notes too. They could make garments from scratch or copy and adjust items you brought in. You know when you buy something and you wish the arms were a bit longer or shorter, or the waist could fit just that bit better? These ladies could work miracles and finally I had clothes that fitted me properly. It’s not easy having a western shape in the Far East, clothes are made for a completely different body shape to mine. I’m not an odd shape but I’m quite tall and so adding that extra length really worked for me. Plus, when you chose your own fabrics you can have your favourite clothes made in any colour you want. I own up to having had the same pair of linen trousers made in at least five colours! I had clothing altered and made from scratch with Nancy, including a beautiful winter coat I had made ready for my return to the harsh winters of the UK.

Nancy and me.

Repair and altering in the UK.

On my return to the UK I did find it easier to buy clothes that fitted me, after all I am back in the West where clothes are designed for my body shape and size. However, I still missed that snug fit that my clothes from Hong Kong had after Nancy had woven her magic. I took a few items to local tailors and discovered that dry cleaners will often do small alterations but it all seemed so expensive compared to the cost of the item of clothing. I realise that its all politics, cheap clothing is often made in sweat shops and repairs in the UK are done where employees are earning a proper wage but paying £10 to get a zip repaired on a garment that only cost £9.99 in the first place seemed bizarre.

Recently there has been a beacon of light pop up on my Facebook page. A local Repair Cafe has started up. Repair Cafes are an international foundation (click here for details) and a village not far from me is now hosting a monthly drop-in centre.

Yesterday I took the oppotunity to visit and took along three items for repair. The first was a Welsh dragon that belongs to my husband and that he has had for over 40 years. The dragon’s wing had been broken and needed a better glue that we have at home. The second was a pearl earring of mine that had come away from its post, again needing better solvent that I have access to. Both were attended to by a wonderful woman, the earring there and then and she is taking the dragon away to her workshop and will return him next month.

Finally, my daughter’s jeans were called for and a lovely lady told me that the denim itself was poor and had started to fray but she could patch it inside and then top-stitch the outside. The jeans had only been worn a few times and we are careful when loading the washing machine so it was so good to give these jeans another go at life and not add them to the landfill that is clogging up our earth.

Whilst the jeans were being sewn, I sat and had a cuppa and cake and admired the bags on display, made from re-purposed fabric, what a super idea.

It felt good to be amongst talented people who know how things work and how to repair them and sit with others who need their help. There was no charge, just donations accepted but there was no hard sell or obligation, however, how can you not give if you can afford it?

We need to stop throwing things away and make them last longer but in a world where we do not value trades as much as academic honours, we shall struggle. Repair Cafes might just be the answer to part of this problem.

In celebration of Hong Kong trams

I subscribe to a fantastic blog about Hong Kong which today is featuring Hong Kong trams. Take a look at the blog, Gwulo.com

When I lived in Hong Kong, I tried to travel by tram whenever I could. There is something about riding on a form of transport that has been around for over 100 years through one of the most modern cities in the world, but if you ride the top deck, you can still see glimpses of old Hong Kong. Here are just a few of the photos I took over the 12 years I was lucky enough to live in this vibrant city.

Views of the outside…

Views of the inside…

Tram stop signs including my local, Happy Valley.

Waiting for a tram, often in the middle of the road.

Party tram!

Hong Kong holiday

Each summer since 2004 my kids and I have left hubby at work in Hong Kong and boarded a flight to the UK. Many expats leave Hong Kong in the summer for a variety of reasons, mostly to see family and friends in their home country and to escape the  heat, rain, typhoons and humidity that make up a Hong Kong summer.

So it was an odd feeling doing the reverse two weeks ago. Just as the UK started to experience really nice weather, well for the UK that is, my son and I waved farewell to my daughter and hubby and boarded the Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong. Of course, we landed on the tail end of a typhoon and had three rainy days but that didn’t stop us doing what we came for, meeting up with friends who had stayed for the summer.

Here’s my reflection on our trip before we go home tomorrow.

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Thoughts on returning to Hong Kong in no particular order…..

  • Just brilliant to spend time with long term friends
  • Happy that Facebook has has helped us in touch and plan our time together
  • An unexpected meeting with a cousin and his partner, neither of whom live in Hong Kong!
  • Especially grateful to one friend and family who lent us their apartment whilst they were away
  • Thankful to their helper who looked after us so well
  • The wonderful transport system, MTR, trams, mini buses, ferries and taxis that make it so easy to get around  for very little money
  • A day out on a junk enjoying special time with another returning family who we’d not seen for three years
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  • Air-con!
  • Asian food which definitely tastes different here than back in the UK
  • Access to the pool and the weather to enjoy it
  • Appreciating that part of me will always reside in Hong Kong and that’s ok

Thoughts about returning to the UK

  • Being reunited with our daughter
  • Grateful that my Dad can come and collect us from LHR
  • Catching up with my extended family
  • Having a home to come back to that is ours now our tenants have left
  • Excited to be thinking about plans for our home, making it a centre for our family
  • Giving the gifts I have bought to my family
  • Starting to get excited with our daughter about starting university in September
  • Connecting with ex-HK friends now in the UK and sharing memories and experiences
  • Thinking about going back to paid work……?

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Maps

I love maps. When I travel, they are always in my luggage either in print or electronic form. My kids love them too and when they were young, I started to teach them how to follow a map by using the Hong Kong MTR map each time we travelled. I realised when my son had learned to follow a particular line and each station on it when he was playing with his Thomas the Tank Engine at home one day and was pushing it across the back of the sofa counting out the stops, cushion, next cushion, Mummy’s hair, another cushion. Got me thinking he was probably ready to move on to bigger and better maps!

In Hong Kong we have the MTR; in London, it’s the Underground or the Tube. Both are fantastic ways of exploring these two amazing cities. The Tube is of course much older dating back in some places to Victorian times and sometimes you can be forgiven to thinking you are riding on a train that old. Hong Kong’s MTR is much smaller but I reckon still carries the same number of passengers, at least until Admiralty.

Anyway, two maps have hit my Facebook page recently and I wanted to share them with you.  Not sure how Londoners will take to anyone who has French blood in them “messing” with their Underground but hey, who am I to comment?

“Put your hands together for Jug Cerović who’s masterfully reworked metro maps for stylish navigation. The French- Serbian architect has standardised 12 underground networks across Europe, Asia and America, enlarging the central part of the maps to make them easier to read. The London Underground version is helpfully labelled with the initial of each line, and stations are laid out in a way that makes more sense geographically. The Overground has also been transformed into a satisfying loop that circles the city so you’ll never get derailed again.” Time Out London.

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Now Hong Kongers have been treated to a literal translation version of their beloved MTR. What great names – just who is Pauline and I dread to think how Oil Pond got its name. However my favourite destination has to be Utmost Peace.

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I feel like I’m being stalked!

So if you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that although I’m living back in the UK, my heart and half of my head is still in Hong Kong. I also feel like I’m being taunted by Hong Kong. Everywhere I go online there seems to be a link taking me to a video or a blog or a website telling me how wonderful it is to live in Hong Kong – so hey people, I know, I get it, don’t rub it in!!

Enough with the moaning, here’s just one link that made me smile today – hope it makes you smile too.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/daves4/things-only-people-who-live-in-hong-kong-will-understand

Half expat?

Hubby’s job took us from the UK to Hong Kong 12 ½ years ago and last summer he left that company to start work for a new one. They wanted him for a larger role to cover Africa (won’t bore you with the details) based in Johannesburg. Dilemma. Our eldest child was already in boarding school in the UK and our youngest had just two years left at school in Hong Kong before hopefully starting university in the UK. Where do we live? Do I stay in HK with number 2 child? Do we all move to Johannesburg? Do we all move to the UK with hubby doing a long commute? So many options and opinions! After much discussion we ended up with hubby living in Jo’burg, me moving to UK and number 2 child happily in the same boarding school as number 1 child also in the UK although the other side of the country from our house. Not ideal being apart but one thing I’ve learned about expats is that we live with all sorts of weird family set ups so it becomes the norm.

The kids and I are our in Jo’burg for the Easter holidays for our second visit to hubby’s home and I have a chance to quickly reflect on our first couple of days.

It’s coming into Autumn here but it’s much warmer than the Spring we left in the UK. The airport looked bright and welcoming.

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Instead of our lovely 1500 sq ft apartment in HK, we have an enormous house with pool and garden. The downside is the electric fence.

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There are the same tropical plants that we found in Hong Kong and even our BBQ made the trip safely from HK to South Africa.

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Two brave birds ventured close to the house. They  dig for food with their long beaks and make the most awful loud screeching noise, usually about 6am…..

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So as they say in Hong Kong, same same but different, ok la?

 

 

Spring in the UK part two

So I’ve already posted some photos of Spring in the UK showing the amazing blossoms and spring flowers but last week I had the privilege of visiting Amelia Farm near Barry in South Wales.  One of the best things about returning to the UK is reconnecting with friends and one such friend is director of Amelia Farm. It’s lambing time and I was lucky enough to see a live birth.

This is where the expectant ewes are waiting.

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The ewe in labour had a condition where she needed to be helped to deliver her twins and the very talented farmer got stuck in with my friend holding down the ewe.

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Here are the twins.

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Here they are safely with mum all clean and getting stuck in.

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Here are some lambs that arrived earlier in the week.

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Not what I’d been used to seeing in Hong Kong!

 

 

 

 

The small things matter

What comes to mind when you think about Hong Kong? Probably the skyline with its skyscrapers of all shapes and sizes, or the harbour and the myriad of boats that sail through and across it; or is it The Peak and its famous tram or the Big Buddha and the cable car that first come to mind? These are undoubtably all wonderful and much loved symbols that show off our city, but take a closer look and you will find hidden gems tucked away, some unique to Hong Kong, others that can be seen around the world varying only to reflect the culture where they are found.

Just before we left Hong Kong to go back to the UK, I set up a Facebook page called Bitesize Hong Kong. I love taking photographs either with my very precious Nikon or just my iPhone. I wanted to capture the small things that had transformed my view of Hong Kong from the tourist board images that we are all familiar with to the small things I passed daily or came across unexpectedly and turned the city into my home.

Of course my project stumbled, why wouldn’t it? An international move in four stages with my family going to two different continents took just a bit more of my time than even super-organised me allowed for! However, I’ve been back in the UK for almost eight months now and I have some mental space to think about resurrecting my page. I’ve decided to set some time aside each week to go through my thousands of photos from the last 12 years and share some of them on my page and by extension with you, dear reader. I hope you enjoy them and come to know MY Hong Kong. 

The link below should take you to the page, please feel free to LIKE it or comment.

https://www.facebook.com

Here’s me about to go through immigration leaving Hong Kong for the last time (until the next time of course)…!

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Week 16 : In the dark

Although the UK is still officially on British Summer Time, the nights are definitely drawing in and there’s a chill in the air. The leaves are at the end of their autumn showing and rainy days are increasing; autumn is almost over and summer is a distant memory. As I mentioned last week, I have missed the UK’s changing seasons.  Hong Kong can sometimes feel like one long season, leaves don’t fall off trees (much) and although the temperature changes from summer to winter, spring and autumn almost don’t exist. The other big change between UK and HK is the day and night cycle. Next weekend the UK will put the clocks back an hour so we will be back on Greenwich Mean Time which means it will get dark around tea time and the sun won’t be up before I’ve had my breakfast (ok, so I’m not an early riser). Day light hours will be short, not giving the air time to warm up; I’m not looking forward to the cold, dark days of winter. In Hong Kong, it gets dark around 7pm in the summer and around 6pm in the winter so no real change.

I’m also now living in the countryside not the city which gives me wonderful open views in the daytime but makes for very dark nights. Let me show you what I mean.

This is my night time view from our old apartment in Hong Kong.

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This is the night time view from our house in Sussex, can you see anything? No? Me neither!

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I’m feeling rather closed in! Light pours out of high rises in Hong Kong. My nearest city, Brighton, doesn’t really have high rise buildings so although on street level there is plenty of light, it feels like the sky starts closer to the ground because of the lack of lights higher than say 10 storeys. Not good, not bad just different.

However, in two weeks the sky will light up all over the UK as we celebrate Bonfire Night! Watch out for that post, sparks may fly 😉

Next week, we shall all be in Johannesburg and on safari! Forgive me if my blog is late next week, I might have upset a lion!

 

 

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